Week of July 19, 2020


Since March, more than 400 elephants have died in the vast area of Africa on the edges of the Okavange Delta.  There are many theories but no answers yet as to the cause of the die off.  The area has a large human population that has had an uneasy relationship with the more than 15,000 elephants in that area.  On the one hand, the elephants bring tourists and their money into the area, however, the elephants eat and tramp down crops and threaten farmers in their fields.  Could the deaths be due to revenge by the farmers?  The problem had become so politically hot that the president lifted a ban on elephant hunting.  The dead elephants, however, do not show any evidence of gunshot or spear marks.  The dead elephants are showing up with their tusks still attached—so, poaching has been eliminated as a cause.  Could it be poisons place in or near their watering places?  Poisoning has been done before, but, in this case, no other wildlife has been affected who also use the watering places.  Could the die off be caused by the stress of having lived through drought—although there has been enough rain recently?  This is one possibility considered.  The organization, Elephants without Borders, has observed elephants walking in circles and acting as if they were dizzy. There have been questions about the possibility of the elephants contracting the new Coronavirus from humans.  This is thought to be highly unlikely. Chris Thouless, head researcher for Save the Elephants, thinks that it is likely some combination of environmental stressors and a neurologic disease caused by rodents.  The National Veterinary Lab in Botswana is now looking into the problem.  They promise result soon.  Meanwhile, conservation groups are encouraging donors to help bring to the public’s attention the need for more studies needed on how humans interact with the natural world.  This C ovid-19 Pandemic has made us all aware of how we can get diseases from animals and they from us. We need to learn how to keep both animals and humans safe and thriving and part of the beautiful web of life.

EARTH STEWARD ACTION:  Learn all you can about elephants and, if you desire, donate to an organization that helps elephants thrive.  Here are a few(there are many more):  www.awf.com, www.wildlifeact.com www.africanconservation.org, www.africanparks.org www.savetheelephants.org and www.elephantswithoutborders.org 

SOURCES:  www.nationalgeographic.com/article/2020/07/botswana-elephant-mystery , www.theconservation.com/hundreds-of-elephants-are-mysteriously-dying